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Discarded Designer Duds

Rags2Riches is a Social Business That Creates Handbags Out of Scraps

— March 23, 2011 — Social Good
There’s always something inspiring about fashion designers (or any designer) who create stunning pieces out of things that others would have relegated to the trash can. Mind you, humankind has been doing this -- creating innovative tools and handicrafts with our waste -- for centuries, but the current state of environmental degradation and consumption calls for a new meaning to the familiar idiom of ”reduce, reuse and recycle.”

Rags2Riches creates handbags and small rugs out of scrap fabric and raw materials that are not dyed. Some of their designs include envelope clutches, beach carry-alls, shopping bags, tote bags and the occasional belt and necklace. But what makes Rags2Riches so special isn’t their use of recycled materials, but rather, the stories behind those that make their products. By employing women from marginalized communities in the Philippines, the employees at Rags2Riches make in between 20 and 50 percent of retail prices.

According to the Rags2Riches website, the idea for Rags2Riches “started with an irritation, a social injustice, talented but marginalized women, and very passionate young professionals.” The eco business model also grew out of Payatas, one of the largest dumps in the Philippines. Many women would scavenge through Payatas to find scrap pieces of fabrics so that they could participate in handicraft production like rug and rag weaving. This is what began the informal cottage industry of rug-weavers in the area of Payatas. The industry proved to be extremely unfair for the women. Consequently, it’s in that arena where Rags2Riches have been attempting to make a difference. For their work, Rags2Riches have been rewarded with numerous prestigious grants and awards including the Body Shop Foundation Grant in 2008 and the Starbucks Grant in 2009.

Beyond providing a living wage for the women who work for Rags2Riches, Rags2Riches also has a program called REAP (Rags2Riches Enterprise Activation Program), where they provide community education and training so that members can get the most out of their careers, and overall lives, and create plans for a possible next step after their employment at Rags2Riches.

Contact Information:
Rags2Riches Website
Unit 3B, Cubao Expo, Araneta Center
Cubao, Quezon City
Telephone: (+632) 666 4520